Thierry Guetta has the habit of filming everything he does in his entire life. This habit did not shake while filming the, technically illegal, work of his cousin ‘Invader’ who is a street artist that pastes up images from and inspired by the video game Space Invaders. Guetta quickly fell head over heals for this underground movement of creating street art and started documenting some of the most famous street artists in the entire world, including the ever (in)famous ‘Banksy.’ It was Banksy who questioned Guetta as to what his plans were for all of this footage, which was originally nothing, and encouraged him to make a documentary about street art as it is a temporary medium (since it is considered vandalism, all pieces are removed or destroyed soon after being created) and these pieces deserved to be recorded for history’s sake in a formal film. Guetta’s attempt at the film was deemed unwatchable and so Banksy took over the film and turned the camera on Guetta so that his personal story would be told along with displaying many artists’ work.
Some speculations state that this film is an elaborate prank being pulled by Banksy. Remaining anonymous as he directs this film, who is to say that the art made by Guetta is not in fact created by Banksy as a way of demonstrating that pop art is the last vestige of the under-talented, and yet they can make millions if hyped just right. Indeed, the climax of the documentary is Guetta putting on an epic gallery opening in Los Angeles as his new moniker “Mr Brainwash” (a name that has been seen as evidence towards Bansky’s message of how hype can brainwash the masses and disguise lack of depth or meaning). I do not subscribe to this theory, as this film seems more like a jab at those (Mr Brainwash being central) who use marketing and gimmicks to make money from something that should be about expression and not profits.
Every street artist in this film, with the noted exception of Mr Brainwash, start as petty vandals and many start to rise up to having their work selling for several thousand dollars at art auctions. This phenomenon rattled Banksy and so he asked Guetta to complete a film with all of his footage so that people could be shown that this art was about more than just hype or sales. As already mentioned, the results were unwatchable by film standards. It was a hour and a half of non sequitur images pasted together as if someone were frantically changing TV channels. This may work as an video art installation piece that you can walk away from when you please, but did nothing to serve the message that Banksy wished for, and so he took matters into his own hands.
Bansksy is the most popular of these street artists, and the art sales back this. Banksy is questioning how legitimate or honourable the intentions Mr Brainwash are, and yet one might want to turn the inquiry onto Banksy himself. Is he just as much of a sellout as others or is he using his success to spread his messages (such as the way he directed an opening credit sequence for The Simpsons that featured a vision of suffering Korean animators)? Many of these artists, who double as criminals in some eyes, rebel against authority not just in the way they present their art, but in the art itself. Banksy is no exception and so the debate continues as to just how much of what he (and others) are doing is to spread such an anti-authority message, or just riding the hype of fashionable pseudo-rebellion. This film accuses Mr Brainwash of the latter, the rest is up to us to decide.
Widescreen 1.78:1. Since Guetta filmed on a small digital camera most of the film looks a bit grainy. When the quality of the equipment used to film goes up so too does the quality of the presentation on this DVD, but its hard to have proper lighting when your subjects only operate at night, or hastily in a gallery where there is no time to set up movie lights.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo. All of the sounds are clear despite of the feedback and rattles the in-camera mic makes. My only quarrel is that only the score makes its way to the surrounding speakers. I think some of the ambient echoes of a hollow gallery, or traffic sounds from the street scenes would have helped with immersing me into the stories.
Subtitles available in English.
More Brainwashing / Deleted Scenes: A brief look at some choice rejections from the final cut. They only help to further detail how much effort is placed into something that may be so shallow, namely Mr Brainwash’s LA gallery opening.
A Star is Born / MBW at the Cans Festival: Banksy invited a large group of street artists to create inside a roadway tunnel. The focus, again goes to Mr Brainwash as he assigns work to others then takes credit for the piece.
Life Remote Control (The Lawyer’s Cut): Guetta’s original film cut down to just under 15 minutes. A couple of minutes is plenty to get the idea that Banksy was right: this would do nothing as a feature film as nobody would have ANY idea what is happening, unless they saw Banksy’s cut of the footage (this film) first.
B movie: This is what I originally expected Exit through the Gift Shop to be, a film profiling Banksy. At least we have this short segment that gives a little more insight into this anonymous man who is clearly an enormous talent.
Included in the packaging are postcard sized examples of street art pieces, a sticker (for any aspiring vandal to get his start) and a pair of star glasses.
This film has a good flow, and a nice presentation. It is clear on what it intends to say and offers many interesting points and visuals along the way. Like a good documentary should, it inspires debate, informs us of something we never heard of, and if we have it goes further than anyone has before into certain aspects of its subject.